- Able to drive a 30" external monitor
- At least 8GB of RAM
- At least 1440x900 native resolution
- Smaller than my 15" macbook pro, which is too large to use comfortably in coach on an airplane
- Larger screen than my wife's 13.3" mbp
- A "real" cpu, not the underclocked ones in the Macbook Airs
- A graphics card that can do justice to Starcraft II
I ended up buying a 14" Thinkpad 420s. I think the S stands for "slim," and it is. My 15" mbp looks and weighs like a ton of bricks next to it, even after I swapped out the Thinkpad's dvd drive for the supplementary battery module, which weighs a little more. The Thinkpad's legendary keyboard lives up to its reputation, and I'm a huge fan of the trackpoint living right there on the home row of the keyboard, for when keyboard shortcuts aren't easily available. The cooling is excellent without the fans ever getting loud.
For the most part, I'm extremely happy with the hardware. There are two exceptions:
- The built-in microphone is terrible. Almost without exception, people have trouble hearing me over Skype. Adding insult to injury, there is no mic input. I thought at first the headphone jack was a phone-style out-plus-in jack, but no. I'll have to get a USB mic.
- Optimus doesn't work in one important respect: in optimus mode it won't drive my 30" monitor at full resolution; it picks something weird like 2048x1560 instead. Lenovo said they were going to fix this but hasn't, yet. To drive this monitor correctly I have to lock it to discrete graphics in the bios. In discrete mode it gets about 2h 45m battery life even with the CPU downclocked and the display dim. So when I travel, I reboot to integrated graphics.
On the software side, I'm more than happy with Windows, especially after the Steam holiday sale. I hadn't realized how many fantastic indie games are available these days. (Most recently, I highly recommend Bastion.)
The one fly in my soup is that I'd anticipated being able to run OS X in a VM for the sake of Keynote. Neither Google Docs presentations, Open/Libre Office Impress, or Powerpoint are adequate replacements. Unfortunately, the Core Image (?) APIs used by Keynote don't work under virtualization, so for now I'm still using my old mbp to create presentations, and taking them on the road with me as pdf.